Happy Hanukkah

I know the holidays are over and this is very late, but it’s something I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now, and I feel like I just really got a handle on it myself, so I’ll go ahead and say it. Better late than never, right?

Just a tiny back-story to start: I made Christmas CDs for all of my coworkers for Christmas, except for my Jewish boss, who got a Hanukkah mix. I didn’t have a lot of Hanukkah music, but I found some really good tunes, and I ended up having more fun making that mix than the Christmas one. I’ve also enjoyed listening to it more. I thought, at first, that it was because those songs weren’t so familiar and played out, but the more I listen to them, I think it’s something different.

People keep asking me how my Christmas was, and I keep saying that it was good, but lacking. I did Christmas things because that’s what I do at the end of December, but I’m not really sure I celebrated Christmas this year.

I feel like some Christians might get upset or concerned when I say things like this, but just hang with me. I really preferred Hanukkah to Christmas this year. That doesn’t mean that I’m converting to Judaism or that Jesus’s birth is insignificant to me. Hanukkah and Christmas are not mutually exclusive holidays. Just because they happen at the same time of year does not mean that they are in competition. They simply celebrate different things. They tell different stories, and this year, my own story lines up better with the Hanukkah story than the Christmas story.

Christmas, for me, this year, was just too big. It was too overwhelming, too much to receive at one time, too much to change. Christmas is about a world-changing event. The way we count our years revolves around it. It was the beginning of a new era. It was THE BIG ONE for all mankind. But my heart is still too tender for that. Overwhelming is overwhelming whether it’s good or bad, and I couldn’t open up to the overwhelming joy of Christmas because I’m overwhelmed enough. Or maybe I’m just not in a position to see the big picture right now because pain causes you to focus in on it so that you can take care of it one step at a time.

Either way, I felt like while Christmas was happening all around me, I was oblivious to it. Christmas might have been like the sun rising, but I was sitting in a blacked-out room. What I had in the room with me, though, were candles, and they were just what I needed. If I had opened the curtains, I would have been blinded. The candles were just the right amount of light.

The story of Hanukkah goes like this (the extremely condensed version, but correct me if I’m wrong in any way): The Greeks had taken over the Holy Land and made it illegal to study the Torah. The Maccabees were the leaders of a Jewish rebel army that fought to get their land and their religious rights and traditions back. They won despite being horribly outnumbered and outarmed (is that a word?). The Greeks de-purified all the ceremonial oil in the temple, but the Jews found ONE jar that had been overlooked. It was only enough for one day, but it miraculously lasted for 8 days, which gave the Jews enough time to purify more oil according to their laws.

As I listen to music about this, I relate to it in two ways:

  1. I have felt very ill-equipped to deal with my life over the past five months. As I look back on each week, I continue to see that things are easier than they were the week before, but I often still feel overwhelmed. Some days, the sadness is still very oppressive. But the Maccabees were overwhelmed and oppressed, and they fought back and WON, not by their own strength, but by that of the God who stood with them. That gives me hope.
  2. There are days when I don’t know how much more I can take, but somehow, hope remains. There are days when I feel that my hope should have dried up a week ago, but somehow, it’s still going. I don’t know how, but it’s there. I’ve found one little jar of hope untouched by sorrow, and it’s keeping me going against all odds.

So happy Hanukkah, everyone. Whether you’re Jewish or not, may you experience the light of hope that miraculously continues to shine until your supply is replenished.

3 Ways to Improve Your Workouts

I’ve been working out consistently for just over a month now. That’s a month of my whole life, so I don’t have much experience to draw from unless I also pull from way back in my childhood when working out was not a thing I did, but playing was. As an adult, I have been a terrible role model thus far and definitely no one you should trust for fitness advice. However, I’ve learned a couple things recently that I would like to share with you, and I am also going to pull from way back in my childhood.

1. Eat a healthy diet.

nawlinsDo you want to know why working out sucks SO bad and you hate it all the time always and hate everything that exists in the world while you’re exercising? It’s because the food you’re putting in your body is not fueling your body properly so that it can work out. At least that was true for me. I barely had the energy to change into workout clothes, but I forced myself to work out because I knew I should. And I kept waiting for the day when I would look forward to it, when I’d feel sluggish if I missed a run, not if I went on one. That day never, ever came, and eventually I gave up. Even when I didn’t give up (remember that time Amaris and I did a half marathon?), I didn’t lose a single pound because I didn’t change my eating habits. They may, in fact, have gotten worse. I lacked the energy I needed to train, but I trained anyway. Then to get the energy back that I needed to finish out the day, I would eat a ginormous plate of pasta because dangit I had EARNED it.

Some of you are shaking (or smacking) your heads at me right now, and you are correct to do so. Looking back, I know it didn’t make sense, but I didn’t know any better. Now I do, and y’all, I am not kidding when I tell you that I didn’t get to work out yesterday, and I was disappointed. If you give your body what it needs, it will return the favor. Get rid of the sugar and fried foods and as much of the refined and processed foods as possible. Eat your veggies. Limit your grains (not to the extreme, but probably half as much as you would like). Report back to me on your workouts.

2. Make a plan to change things up.

I get bored pretty easily, so doing a different workout every day helps me to keep it up. But I also need structure. I hated going to the gym because I would walk in, look around, wonder what I should do, not have any good ideas, and end up doing the same thing. Planning what you’re going to do, though, allows you to feel in control and ready for your workout while also preventing you from getting bored with it. It’s the same with diet. If you plan to eat different things every week, you’ll get to eat new things but also not find yourself in the kitchen staring into the fridge wondering if you’re actually hungry.

3. Play!

I have workouts that I do with a DVD throughout the week, and they are not the most fun, but I do them because I must, because they’re different every day (which keeps me from zoning out), because they’re planned for me (structure), and because doing them is FAR healthier than watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. But on Sundays, I’m going to a Zumba class up the street, and that is FUN. I look forward to it. It makes me excited about exercise (most weeks) because it doesn’t feel like exercise. When I was a kid, I was in great shape because I was on a competitive jump rope team. Have you tried jumping rope lately? Good luck going for more than a minute. It is no joke. But when I was a kid, I didn’t think about it as exercise. I just loved doing it. What do you love doing that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and works your muscles (keep it clean, kids)? Dance (Zumba, swing, contra (!!), Just Dance), play a sport, jump rope, run as fast as you can down a hill, ride a bike, play in the ocean, walk/hike with friends, go to a playground and climb on the jungle gym, get some buddies together and play tag (or any other childhood game that won’t make you feel like the fat kid in gym class). HAVE FUN!

Oh, and if you are giant nerd and you know it (you know it), I just found this. Enjoy!

Light Incoming

Thirteenth century Persian poet, Rumi, said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” The band Roman Candle sings, “Come tell me something, any words are fine…let me know if the big light is shining on me.” Rock bottom is usually where people finally allow others to help them. The vulnerability that comes with grief, loss, or injury can actually be the thing that allows light, love, and healing to enter. When you get to that point where you can no longer keep a stiff upper lip, you either shut everything out and sit alone in your depression or risk letting something in, knowing that even if it is good, it will still hurt at first. And because it hurts, it’s really tempting to close yourself off again because, let’s be honest, you’ve had enough pain for a lifetime already.

But friend, I beg you to grit your teeth and bear the initial sting because it will get better. A sharp pain for a short time that leads to long-term healing is better than a deep ache that never ends. So let people love you. Speak the name you don’t dare say for fear that it will rip your heart in half all over again. Talk about your grief, and hear others well when they say, “Yep. Me too.” Feed yourself good things – good words, good music, good food, good relationships, good touch. Be kind to yourself.

I know being kind to yourself sounds both like common sense and like an impossible task all at once sometimes. If you’re having trouble with it, here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to a good album.
  • Take a hot bath or shower.
  • Eat something delicious.
  • Take a nap.
  • Hug somebody.
  • Do some light exercise (or heavy if that’s what you need, but the goal is to be kind to yourself, not punish yourself).
  • Get outside, and breathe deeply.
  • Read a good book.
  • Play a game.
  • Watch a comedy.
  • Enjoy a hot cup of something (coffee/tea/hot chocolate).
  • Go swimming, and just float.

Let the light in, friends. Don’t let the darkness permeate every space inside you. The darkness gets to a point where it feels comfortable, but it’s killing you. The light hurts for a moment, but it is the only way to really live.

Healing

They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t think I believe that. I think it takes time for wounds to heal, but I don’t think time itself is the healer. I’ve read a lot of the internet, and I’ve come across a whole slew of message boards where women who’ve lost a child to PPROM discuss their struggles. And there are plenty of ladies out there who seem no better off after two years than other ladies after two months. But then there are ladies who seem further along in their healing process at six months than ladies who’ve waited six years. I’m very careful to use the word “seem” in this discussion because I clearly have no idea what’s really going on in their hearts. I can only see what gets typed on the internet. But everyone is different, so I think there must be more at play than just time alone.

As a Christian, I believe that God is the best healer there is, but I think I also play a role in my own healing, so the whole process is a sort of dance, a cooperative effort, a give and take that eventually results in acceptance of my situation and myself in it.

Everyone participates in this process in their own way, so it can take more or less time depending on who you are, and it looks different for everyone because God relates to unique people in unique ways designed to best engage them. For some people, reading about God’s loving nature and promises in scripture is the only thing that helps them feel better. Other people connect with God more through music. Some of us need to feel a physical presence, and for that, God gives us people to hug. Some of us need to feel peace in the midst of turmoil, and for that, he gives sleep. Some of us need chocolate cake for a week, and for that, God gives us old high school friends who own a bakery and are willing to make deliveries.

My temptation is to say that your healing will only go as quickly as the extent to which you engage with God in his healing offerings, but I don’t know if that’s true. I just don’t know. And I won’t attempt to box up healing in a tidy 3-step process because it’s not that simple. What I have experienced, though, is that when I acknowledge the good things in my life – our friends and family, the support they’ve shown us, my cuddly husband, the love I feel for others, the love they show me, the freedom I feel to be myself knowing that God accepts me completely, good sleep, good music, a great job with amazing coworkers and students, chocolate cake, etc. – when I acknowledge all these good things, it feels like they replace little bits of the bad.

Maybe that’s what Isaiah was getting at when he said that the Lord had anointed him to provide for those who grieve, to give them “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Maybe everyone who has loved and supported us through the loss of our daughter has been anointed by God to provide for us, to switch out the bad for the good, little by little. And maybe very slowly, I’ll even start to find good things in what right now feels like an entirely bad situation. I’ll let you know if/when that happens, but in the meantime, thank you for everything. I hope you know how big a part of my healing you’ve been so far, and I want you to know that I see it, and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Letting Go of Grief

I don’t think anybody wants to grieve. I don’t think anyone likes it. I don’t think people hang onto it because they enjoy it. I think that if they’re afraid to let go, it’s because the grief is the only connection they feel to the person they’ve lost. Nobody wants to grieve, but people who are grieving have already lost someone important. When we tell them to let go or move on from their grieving phase before they’ve worked through it, they may feel like we’re asking them to give away the person they’ve lost all over again. That’s not cool.

If you are grieving, please take your time. You’ll know when you’re ready to take each next step, so don’t let anybody else tell you that you have to do something before you’re ready. If you’re afraid to let go of your grief, I think you’re probably not ready yet, and that’s ok. Just breathe. I am no expert. I’m not a counselor. I do have a degree in Psychology, but it’s just a BA, so that’s pretty useless. But I know that grief is complicated, and it’s messy, and everyone walks through it differently because people and situations are different. It takes time, and it’s hard, and you go through the stages over and over again before you come out the other side.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’m so thankful for my friends and family who have supported me and not pushed me to do anything I’m not ready for. And I’m not ready to let go of my grief. If I’m honest, it does scare me. But knowing I don’t have to let go of it yet gives me the freedom to work through it at my own pace so that one day, when I get to that small, quiet room of acceptance, I can look back on my grief and call it a job well done. I can know that I didn’t rush it, I didn’t cut corners, I didn’t try to be a hero. I grieved fully and honestly, with kindness for myself.

Identity Crisis

I don’t know if it’s because Ella was genetically half me, or if it’s because my body created and sustained whole new organs to take care of her, or if it’s just the way it is with mothers and their children, but I feel like a piece of me was lost with her. I suspect it’s all of those things, but I found myself saying something the other day that I felt encompassed a lot of what I’ve been feeling. I said that I don’t know how to be a mom without a baby, and I don’t know how not to be a mom knowing that I had a baby.

Will pointed out recently that I am sort of an extreme processor and preparer. As soon as we started dating, I started reading books about dating, and we got a book of questions to discuss before we got engaged. As soon as we got engaged, I started reading books about marriage. As soon as I got pregnant, I started reading pregnancy books. And now I have at least three books on dealing with the grief of losing a baby. It’s just what I do. I need to understand what’s going on so that I can cope with it and be prepared for what lies ahead. Plus I’ve always loved being a student, so educating myself comes naturally, and I enjoy it even if the subject matter is difficult emotionally.

Because of that, it might look like I’m taking on this identity of a-woman-who’s-lost-a-baby to an extreme – like this is all I’m ever going to think about, read about, talk about, be interested in, or devote my life to again. But I think of it more like going to my favorite store, piling my arms full of all the clothes I want to try on, and then deciding which things fit, which things are appropriate for my life, and which things I can afford.

The reality of miscarriage is that it does change you. All major life events do. I read a bunch of marriage books because I was trying to figure out what kind of wife I would be. I read a bunch of baby books because pregnancy and parenthood are scary as the dickens, and I needed to start wrapping my brain around it all and begin to consider what it would look like when I did it. I’m reading books for bereaved parents because I need to know that the things I’m feeling and doing are normal or helpful or not crazy. I need to know that we’re not the only ones who’ve gone through this, and that lots of other folks have come through it and survived. And I’m trying to figure out how this will change me and how it will not. I’m trying to decide what fits my personality, what works for me practically, and what it will cost to allow these changes to take place in me.

Practically, I don’t know how all of this will play out. I don’t know if it will make me change jobs or hobbies or interests in the long run, but I think my identity is much deeper than those things, and that’s where I’m concentrating. I’m hoping that losing a baby will make me more compassionate, and that it will not make me bitter. I’m hoping it will show me how strong I am, and not make me afraid. I’m hoping it will make me more appreciative of the things I have, and not make me jealous of what others have. I’m hoping it will make me more caring, and not make me cynical. I’m hoping it will give me eyes to see beauty in painful times, and not blind me to hope. In general, I’m hoping it makes me a better mama to the babies I will one day hold in my arms and the ones I will always hold in my heart.

I don’t know how to be a mom without a baby, but I’m not going to worry about how not to be a mom anymore because it’s too late for that. I just am a mom now. And I’m starting to think that being a mom is largely about character anyway – character that will come out in everything I do, not just parenting. The mom I am now will affect the wife I am, the teacher I am, the friend I am, the daughter and sister I am, the writer I am, and every other role I play. Maybe I’m starting to figure it out after all.

Survivor’s Guilt

Friend A – we’ll call her Ashley – has had two healthy pregnancies that resulted in healthy babies. She has never had a miscarriage or any difficulty conceiving. She told me that during her first pregnancy, two of her coworkers had miscarriages, and she tried to hide herself from them so that they wouldn’t have to see her and be reminded that she was still fine while they had lost babies.

Friend B – we’ll call her Bonnie – had a miscarriage the week before I did and told me that a pregnant coworker was being really weird and avoiding her, and it hurt her feelings.

Friend C – we’ll call her Candace – has also had two healthy pregnancies and no miscarriages or difficulty conceiving. She emailed me the other day to express her sympathy, but we also had a really good discussion about the guilt she feels about so many things regarding her kids. When so many of her friends have lost babies, she feels guilty for getting pregnant easily and never miscarrying, for having her tubes tied when she and her husband felt that their family was complete, for experiencing joy when so many others are experiencing pain, for feeling frustrated with her kids when she knows how incredibly lucky she is to have them, for posting Facebook statuses about her kids, and for being unable to relate to her friends who have experienced the heartache of miscarriage or infertility.

When Bonnie told me about her miscarriage, I was still pregnant, and I said to Will that I felt a little guilty that we had conceived so easily (without meaning to, really) while she and her husband had been trying for several months, and that things had been going so well for us while they had had a terrible loss. And then the next day, my water broke, we lost our baby, and I felt guilty for that too.

Here’s the thing: You can feel guilty for so many things, whether everything is going well or you wonder if you did something to cause a tragedy, but the truth is that there’s no need for guilt. If you had babies without ever having to deal with miscarriage or infertility, you didn’t do anything wrong by having healthy kids, and you aren’t doing anything wrong if you share your joy with others in person or on social media. I didn’t do anything wrong in my pregnancy, and I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong by sharing my pain. People are meant to live in community and share their lives, both good and bad. My hope in sharing now is not that people would feel guilty for never having gone through a miscarriage, but that people who have suffered in silence would feel less alone and more a part of a community.

But now that this has come up, I feel like we need to talk about it. Communication between women breaks down completely around the topics of miscarriage and infertility, and I think there are a few things going on:

  1. Women who have had miscarriages or difficulty conceiving feel ashamed or embarrassed, or they simply don’t want to bring everybody down by shedding light on their misfortunes, so they don’t talk about it (like the dozens of women who have told me privately about their miscarriages over the past couple of weeks).
  2. Women who have only had healthy pregnancies are trying to be sensitive toward their friends who have had difficulties (like my friend Ashley and possibly Bonnie’s coworker), and they feel guilty for their good fortune (like Candace).
  3. We stop talking because we don’t know what to say, or we think saying anything at all will cause pain.

So let me just address all of that now. There is nothing for any of us to feel ashamed of or guilty about. Can we please just love and take care of each other instead of worrying about how we’ll be perceived?

Friend, if you’ve lost a baby, I promise you that people who love you are not blaming you for it. People who are idiots will say stupid things because that’s what idiots do (and even good people are idiots sometimes), but people who love you will only want to hug you and be there for you. They may not know what to say, and everyone will feel awkward standing in your living room while you can’t stop crying, but it’s ok. It’s really ok. Your tears are appropriate and good and beautiful. And I know you feel guilty (and ashamed, embarrassed, confused, angry, hopeless, sad, and lost). I know. Feel it, but don’t become it. You are not at fault, you are not less than, and you are not hopeless or lost forever. You just feel that way now. And you are entitled to your feelings.

Friend, if you’ve never lost a baby, I am so happy for you. Seriously. In the midst of all of this horribleness, I am nothing but thankful that you have never had to go through the same horribleness. Seeing babies makes me sad sometimes, but some friends’ babies are so darn cute, they actually cheer me up. I can’t help it. And seeing pregnant friends is hard for me right now, but their friendship is so important to me. It would make things even harder if they avoided me without any explanation. If you are pregnant and have a friend who is dealing with a miscarriage, it’s ok to ask what you should do. And if your friend isn’t up to seeing you just yet, don’t take it personally. Just give her time.

We need to keep talking. A few days after we lost Ella, we had a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor said that no matter what people said to us, it would probably hurt for a while. Even if people said very nice, comforting, loving things, they would sting. He said it’s like an open wound, and no matter what you do to it – even if you’re doing healthy things like cleaning and bandaging it – it just hurts. And he was right, but that doesn’t mean we should stop talking just because it hurts. That’s like saying you shouldn’t touch a wound – even to clean it – because it stings. Yes, it stings, but it’s necessary for healing.

The Honest Guide to Miscarriage

After 16 weeks of pregnancy, I gave birth to a baby girl. Ella Claire McMillian was born at 9:08 p.m. on July 19, 2014. She was about 7 inches long (18 cm) and weighed 5 ounces. I’m honestly not sure if I should be writing about it yet because I don’t have a neat and tidy bow to tie it up with yet, and normally my blog is more upbeat. But if I’m writing an honest guide to anything, it should be honest. So here we are.

If you want to hear the whole story of what happened, I will tell you, but it’s pretty graphic because my pregnancy was much more advanced than most are when miscarriages happen. So for now, I’m just going to stick with the emotional fall-out from it because I think that is not so unique to my situation and perhaps more helpful to you if you’ve had a miscarriage and somehow found my blog looking for help.

If you have had a miscarriage, I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You are not alone. Your grief is valid and completely warranted. Your feelings, whatever they are, are respected here. I’m not going to tell you about statistics because as helpful as they can be, statistics have not been as comforting to me for the past two weeks as simply having permission to feel what I feel. I’ve been very lucky to have friends and family who have given me that permission and freedom, but who have also encouraged me not to beat myself up.

Hormones

In an honest guide to miscarriage, I should start by saying that your hormones are going absolutely insane for the first week or two at least. And this massive hormone shift will make your already-intense feelings just completely out of control. When I am able to remind myself of this fact, it makes things a little more manageable, I guess because I know that eventually my hormone levels will go back to normal, and I’ll be able to feel things normally again.

In the midst of all the hormonal changes, here’s what I’ve been feeling:

Guilt

My husband has had to tell me a LOT not to beat myself up. Two doctors told me there was nothing I could have done or not done to prevent it, and we had just had a prenatal appointment 4 days earlier where everything looked perfect, so intellectually, I know it wasn’t my fault. But there’s just something so frustrating about it not being anybody’s fault, about there not being a reason for it at all. I don’t know how I would feel if I knew for sure that it was my fault. I’m sure it would be worse, and that I would require years of therapy for that, but part of me still thinks answers – even horrifying ones – are better than no answers, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did wrong.

I’ve gone through the quasi-plausible mistakes – I didn’t exercise enough, I didn’t rest enough, I strained too hard when I pooped, I accidentally rolled onto my stomach in my sleep, I didn’t eat well enough, I didn’t take my vitamins consistently – and the philosophical ones – I complained too much about the discomforts of pregnancy, I didn’t appreciate what I had when I had it. But none of it really adds up. Women who treat their bodies terribly and don’t want the babies growing inside them have been having healthy babies for centuries. There’s just no logic to it.

The thing is I didn’t do anything wrong. The doctors said so. And my counselor friend pointed out that if I didn’t do anything wrong, I must have done everything right. I hate that right now because I still want to know why this happened. I want to know how we can prevent it from happening again. I want to trouble-shoot so that next time, I can do pregnancy perfectly and keep my baby safe. There is a chance that I will get some answers. They’re running some tests on the baby to see if she had some sort of chromosomal abnormality that prevented her from developing, and in a few weeks, I’ll have a follow-up appointment where they’ll start looking to see if there’s anything physically wrong with me that can be fixed. But the truth is that nobody knows why a lot of miscarriages happen.

Anger

There just are no answers, and there might never be, which really pisses me off. What has medical science been doing for all these years that there are still no answers in one of the most devastating situations ever that SO many women go through? I’m also mad at my body for not doing its job. I’m mad at Facebook for showing me all of my pregnant friends’ happy pregnancy posts. I’m mad at the rest of the world for continuing to spin and function as usual when my world has completely crashed down around me. I’m mad at myself for getting so wrapped up in pregnancy that it became my whole world. I’m mad at the fact that women who don’t take care of themselves or their unborn babies have completely healthy pregnancies, that women who don’t want or love their babies still carry them to term, that we were supposed to be in the clear, having made it squarely into the 2nd trimester, and that we’d gotten so excited and told everybody the news just to have it completely shattered.

Depression

I’m angry and sad about the same things, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two emotions. I think the only way to tell (for me) is that when I’m angry, I want to destroy something, but when I’m really depressed, I want to destroy everything. I’m not saying I’m suicidal. I would never, could never do that to the people I love. But when the sadness becomes overwhelming, you just want it to stop, and you care very little about how that is accomplished. And in the midst of all those hormones, sadness can turn into intense depression very easily. These are just the facts. I think I’m out of the woods on this one, thankfully. After a lot of crying, a lot of talking with my husband, a lot of board games and Parks and Recreation on Netflix, a lot of praying, “Help,” over and over and over, a lot of friends and family bringing food and babysitting me, and a little bit of time to adjust, I have more hope. And hope goes a long way. Here’s what I have told myself often over the past two weeks:

Where there is love, there is life, and where there is life, there is hope.

Will and I love each other like crazy. Our friends and family have shown us so much love. We believe that God loves us completely. And even though it hurts, we loved and still love our baby. The joy we feel loving each other and the pain we feel loving Ella both remind me that we are experiencing life. And where there is life, there is hope.

Fear

Hope and fear play a terrible tug-of-war in my mind and my heart. As soon as I think, “We can try again,” I am immediately afraid that this will happen again, and I don’t know if I can do this again. When you have a miscarriage, everyone wants to tell you success stories about people who had a miscarriage, but who now have healthy kids. It’s helpful in a way, but it doesn’t stop you from being terrified of trying again and going through this pain again.

Hope

Right now, we’re in a never-ending fear-hope-sadness cycle. I start to feel ok, but then I do a load of laundry, and there are still maternity clothes in there. I start to feel ok, but then I eat something I craved when I was pregnant, and it reminds me. I get sad, and then I think we’ll try again, and then I’m scared. It just doesn’t stop. I’m told that that’s normal, and that it will probably continue, especially if I get pregnant again. I’d like to see longer stretches of hope and shorter stretches of fear in the cycle, but I suppose I need time for that to develop. For now, I’m eating chocolate cake for breakfast and looking forward to a weekend away with my husband because when the past is painful and the future is terrifying, all you can do is focus on what you have going for you right now.

If you knew how many life lessons I’ve learned from the Broadway show Rent, you’d either feel like you don’t understand me at all but you love me anyway, or like we are absolute soul mates, depending upon the depth of your love for musical theater. Different ones hit me at different times in life. Right now, it’s this:

Forget regret,
Or life is yours to miss.

And this:

Give in to love,
Or live in fear.

The rest of the song is sort of hit or miss, but I really love those lines about giving in to love and not missing out on life. It isn’t fun at all right now. It hurts, and it’s scary, and I wish I could fast-forward through this part of life or just cut it out entirely, but I’m starting to think it’s possible that I might make it through to a place of joy again at some point in the future.

A good friend who had a miscarriage a couple of years ago sent me a message that I’ve kept in mind a lot these past two weeks. She said that you never really “get over” it, but that it’s like a drop of ink in water, and over time, it goes from being a drop of ink in a shot glass to being a drop of ink in a bathtub. I hope (and feel like) there is truth in that. And I think that every kindness, every loving thought, word, and deed, every bit of grace and truth, every casserole and chocolate cake delivered, every card, email, text, call, and Facebook message, every prayer, every hug, every moment that folks sit with me and just let me cry, every heart that is broken with mine, every moment of snuggling with my husband, every funny/cute animal picture, every episode of Parks and Recreation, every board game, every warm shower, every breath of fresh air is a drop of water in my glass. It’s still pretty dark, and I think it will be for a while, but it’s diluting slowly.

The Honest Guide to Pregnancy – Weeks 14-15

I don’t know if I’m starting something here that I won’t be able to keep up with, but I’ll try. I really like the idea of documenting this journey for other women, but also for myself so that if we have another kid, I can look back and remember what happened when…not that a 2nd pregnancy will necessarily be at all like this one. But still…

Today is my last day in week 15. It’s been 19 days since I last vomited (knock on wood). I know it’s been 19 days because we keep a chalkboard by our front door, and for the past month, it’s had a square drawn on it followed by the words “days without incident.” We update the number in the square every morning on our way out the door. We’ve had to reset it to zero a couple of times, but this is the longest stretch so far, so I’m feeling pretty good about the odds that my “morning” sickness phase is finished. I may give it another week just to be sure, and then return the chalkboard to its original role as Sweet Note Spot.

Some interesting things have happened in weeks 14 and 15 besides the fact that I haven’t hurled once (knock on wood). Let’s start with the least interesting and work our way up.

Flintstone’s Vitamins

I am not a champion when it comes to taking pills. I can do it, but I really have to psych myself up, and it’s not enjoyable. So when we found out I was pregnant, we got gummy vitamins. They tasted not awful, and they were easy to take, but I really think they contributed to my nausea, and I was not cool with that. Then we found some that were supposed to be easy on the stomach and actually help prevent nausea, so we got those, and voila! The nausea abated. Unfortunately, they were larger than rifle bullets, and I dreaded taking them so badly that I just gave up. I mean hey, women had healthy babies for centuries before prenatal vitamins even became a thing, right? And I’m suuuuuure I’m getting everything the baby and I both need on my diet of cereal, pickles, and peanut-butter crackers…

After some internet research on the subject, I found out that many women take Flintstone’s chewable vitamins while pregnant, so at our last appointment, I asked if that was ok, and I got the go-ahead. Yabba-dabba-doo!!

Shortness of Breath

This is actually not new. I think I’ve been out of breath since about week 6, but back then, I got out of breath from walking up stairs whereas now, all it takes is rolling over in bed. To be fair, changing positions in bed is a greater ordeal in pregnancy in general what with all the pillows involved in propping me up so I don’t sleep on my stomach. But seriously, it’s just rolling over. It’s not an Olympic event.

Sidebar: What would pregnant Olympics look like? Would rolling over in bed be an event? Surely one could compete in how long she can go without peeing. Later in pregnancy, leg shaving could be very competitive. And of course, the long-distance waddle would be a highlight of the games. :End sidebar

Baby Bump

At the end of the last quarter (3 weeks ago), I promised my coworkers that I would work on a more respectable bump over our two-week break, and I’m proud to say that I totally delivered (pun intended) on that promise. Here’s the thing, though: I’ve always had a belly. The only real difference now is that I can’t suck it in anymore. At all. It is out there for all to see, and honestly, I’m ok with that. We were walking around Target the other night, and I said to Will, “You know what I really like about being pregnant? It’s totally ok for me to look pregnant.” When skinny women get pregnant, they are generally still pretty thin, but they have a baby bump, you know, like every time US Weekly posts a grainy long-distance photo of a celebrity on the cover with her belly circled. But when you have the kind of build I have, it’s hard to tell when you’re pregnant and when you have just started to let yourself go.

The people who know I’m pregnant know I’m starting to show. The people who don’t know definitely wonder, but they don’t have the guts to ask yet because it’s still very possible that married life has just been that good to me.

As the bump gets bigger, though, I’m starting to believe that it has power. People are starting to make way for me and let me have their seats and stuff. Not a lot, but you better believe I’m going to use this thing to my advantage as it becomes more obvious.

Relaxin

And no, I don’t mean chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool (and definitely no shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school). Apparently, around this time in the pregnancy, your body produces a hormone called relaxin that relaxes your joints so that your hips can spread out to make way for baby’s grand entrance into the world, and possibly so that your rib cage can spread out to make way for all the organs your baby is displacing as it grows.

But what you feel is that your legs could detach from your body at any moment, your hips are sore, and your back muscles are begging for mercy from working overtime to hold your torso together. Hence, the no b-ball.

The Great Migration

At this point in pregnancy, your uterus is getting too big for its cozy little usual spot and decides to take up residency a bit farther north. So it squeezes itself out of its downtown location, which is unpleasant in itself. I was sitting on the couch one night and got very uncomfortable. It felt crampy in my baby box, which had hitherto been the worst possible thing that could happen. In the first trimester, almost anything you look up has an explanation with this final sentence: “As long as you’re not cramping, you’re probably fine.” But the second trimester…well that’s a whole new ball game, so I Googled “14 weeks pregnant pressure in lower abdomen.” And I found this awesome website with the best sentence I could have possibly read at that moment. “If you’re feeling little contractions or pulling and stretching sensations this week, don’t panic.”

It went on to explain that all my organs were going to move. And friends, they DID. And I felt it happening. And I knew what the earth felt like when Pangaea broke up. It was weird. I told the nurse at our last appointment that I woke up in the middle of the night and could feel everything moving around inside me, and she said, “Yep, that’s probably exactly what was happening.”

Skeletor

At our first appointment, we saw the baby. It looked like a kidney bean with a heartbeat, and it was amazing. At the second appointment, we saw the baby again. It looked like a very squirmy pile of string beans with a head and a heartbeat, and it was also amazing. At our third appointment, it looked like Skeletor. Yep. Still amazing.

And let me tell you, Skeletor is ROCKING OUT in there. L-Josh gave us her home fetal monitor thingamajig, and we haven’t had any success finding the heartbeat with it so far, but now we know why. The little booger won’t sit still long enough for you to find its heart. Even the nurse couldn’t do it with her fancy medical-grade doppler. That’s how we got to see Skeletor.

As real as the symptoms of pregnancy are, it’s still hard to believe there’s a tiny human in there. I see my belly growing and understand, theoretically, why it’s happening, but even when I see the ultrasounds, it doesn’t seem real. It feels like they’re putting cold gel and some kind of Pampered Chef product (you know, one of those things you got as a gift but don’t know what it’s for) on my belly and then showing me a crappy black-and-white movie of a really freaky-ass baby kind of half-heartedly trying to do the worm.

Maybe when I can feel it moving and kicking, it’ll start to feel real. Until then, I’m just going to rejoice in the fact that I haven’t thrown up in 19 days (knock on wood).